Art in Action: Poetry in the Gardens

Welcome to Art in Action: Yaddo Poets, a self-guided opportunity to spend time walking in our public gardens, perhaps seeing things you haven’t noticed before, and listening to a few poets associated with Yaddo as they read from their work. There are five listening stations, sited around these 12 acres. The poets are: John Ashbery, Elizabeth Bishop, Hakeem Furious, Rachel Eliza Griffiths and Muriel Rukeyser. We hope you enjoy listening to these works and that they may stay with you, reverberating, perhaps expanding or amplifying your own ideas and reminding us all that time spent in retreat, such as artists do at Yaddo, or this private time you’re spending in a beautiful garden, can lead to a sharpened mind and, if we’re lucky, an improved world.

Please note that the material may not be suitable for young listeners.


Muriel Rukeyser

Late in her career, in the 1960s and ’70s, Muriel Rukeyser was a mentor to a generation of other female poets, including Alice Walker and Anne Sexton, who followed her path into American Modernism and what she called “documentary poetics.” Rukeyser, who came to Yaddo in 1933 and again in 1938, insisted that activist and poet were not irreconcilable terms but rather forces that must be reconciled for authentic work. As her fellow poet Marilyn Hacker once wrote, “She insisted that poetry could encompass both science and history, that of the past and of the present, from the Depression through the anti-war movement in which [Rukeyser] was active at the end of her career.”


Elizabeth Bishop

Born in Worcester, MA, in 1911, Elizabeth Bishop’s early years were fraught: Her father died before she was one and her mother, who suffered from a mental illness, was institutionalized when Bishop was age 5. Bishop found her own way, in many regards, both in life and in her literary output. Her work, as in this poem, is often rooted in detailed observation of the natural world, but it is not pastoral. It is emotionally loaded, focused on grief, longing, loss and corresponds to her generation’s push away from artifice to the immediate and personal. Bishop came to Yaddo in 1949, 1950 and 1951, overlapping with Robert Lowell who was to become a lifelong friend and correspondent. She won a Pulitzer Prize in 1956 and was hailed as “one of the most important American poets of the 20th century” by The New York Times.


Hakeem Furious

Performance artist, Hakeem Furious (aka Andre Carbonell) is a young songwriter, poet and spoken-word artist. He’s an on-air host for the radio station, KUVO, in Denver, where he curates a hip-hop and R&B show called “The Drop.” You’ll hear him performing a poem he wrote about working as a gas station attendant—he would say “employed in the petroleum business.” He was in residence at Yaddo in 2021.


Rachel Eliza Griffiths

In 2015, Rachel Eliza Griffiths, had her first residency at Yaddo: she is a poet, visual artist, and novelist. Her hybrid collection of poetry and photography, Seeing the Body (W.W. Norton), was published in 2020. Griffiths is the creator of Poets on Poetry (P.O.P), which gathers more than fifty contemporary poets together in conversation to discuss poetry in relation to individual human experience and culture.


John Ashbery

A long-time Member of Yaddo’s Board of Directors, John Ashbery towered over American poetry of the post-war period. He became an enigmatic proponent of modern poetry, exploring the limits of language and the shape-shifting flow of consciousness. His vivid, complex poems have been described as “verbal canvases” and inspired legions of other poets.